Big things are expected from the football team this year. But, as in any high school sport, the deciding factor could be how much more the team improved than its opponents despite graduation losses.
One positive on the Generals’ side is they experienced the program’s best season ever in 2010. Eight wins, and a will do wonders for a team’s psyche.
But high school sports does not afford a program to build a dynasty with the same players like the pros. Seniors graduate and the difference between one season’s success and another’s struggles can come down to experienced players returning and whether the holes being filled are done so with the same amount of talent and desire.
Fortunately for Hamilton-Wenham, it has the key parts from its offense and defense back for another season, which could spell a successful campaign.
“It’s hard to tell how well we will do this year. It’s still early,” said coach Andrew Morency. “Everyone is certainly excited. I know all of the programs we are facing in the league are quality programs in good communities with good kids.
“We just want to be playing for something in November (at the end of the season). Hopefully in the end we will be in the thick of it.”
Morency appears to have experience on both offense and defense. The linebacker corps, however, is the strength of the squad on the defense.
Playing a 3-4, with many variations and special packages, Hamilton-Wenham has four returning linebackers that should be involved in many plays.
All three senior tri-captains – Shane Jenkins, Kevin Anthony and Elliot Burr – play the second line of defense. That will ensure strong play from the linebackers. Ryan Foringer, another returning senior, will line up next to the captains.
“I think we will have a few spots to replace (on defense) but we do have our linebackers back,” said Morency, whose team fell to Cardinal Spellman, 28-16, in the Div. 3A playoffs last fall.
“The defense is still a work in progress but we feel we have potential. We have good athletes but they are smart, too. They understand how to play our defense after playing it for a few years.”
Rounding out returnees who are experienced on the defensive side of the ball are seniors Matt Puter (defensive back) and Taylor Drinkwater (defensive line), and junior Trevor Lyons (defensive back).
Morency has high hopes for Drinkwater, who was stuck behind a Cape Ann League all-star last year. Also, Masconomet transfer Luke Wendt, a senior, has shown potential at defensive line.
“We will have a lot of movement and a lot of deception,” Morency said. “We will come hard and do a lot of different things.”
The offense also returns a good amount of experience. At the skill positions, Burr at running back, Lyons at quarterback and Puter at wide receiver should have little problems finding holes or having time to throw with returning offensive lineman Jenkins, Anthony, Foringer and Drinkwater.
“We feel like we have some experience and some good athletes at offensive line,” Morency said. “We have to consider that as a strength at this point.”
Puter and Lyons saw significant time at their respective positions while spelling then-starters Jimmy Love and Dylan Keith at wide receiver and quarterback, respectively.
“Offensively, with our running game – Lyons and Burr – that is something we’re happy about,” Morency added. “We have been able to run ball well so far. (in scrimmages against Salem and Revere). That will do wonders for our passing game.”
Morency feels Paul Kim, a senior, junior Matt Vogus and sophomores Pete Duval and Chris Ecker will step up.
The newly combined Northeast Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 4, which is largely last year's Cape Ann League Small, will again be a challenge, especially with Manchester-Essex joining Hamilton-Wenham, Lynnfield, Ipswich, North Reading and Georgetown.
“We can’t sneak up on (teams) this year … We’re going to have a bulls’ eye on our backs,” Morency said. “Teams will understand who we are and we will face that challenge.”